Department associate heads appointed to amplify diversity efforts in EMS

EMS faculty will serve as associate heads for diversity, equity and inclusion in the college's five departments.  Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Furthering its mission to support diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS) has provided funding for each of its five departments to appoint faculty to serve as DEI associate heads.

The newly created positions will lead department DEI efforts and coordinate with the college to support and deepen the work being done by the college’s Office of the Associate Dean for Educational Equity.

“These faculty members are providing an important service to their departments and the college in leading DEI efforts and in fostering a sense of belonging for all our faculty, staff and students,” said Victoria Sanchez, associate dean for educational equity in EMS.

The associate heads are Eugene Clothiaux, professor of meteorology and atmospheric science; Lorraine Dowler, professor of geography; Enrique Gomez, professor of chemical engineering and materials science and engineering; Elizabeth Hajek, associate professor of geosciences; and Chiara Lo Prete, associate professor of energy economics.

“I look forward to making a contribution to building a more diverse and inclusive department that fosters a strong sense of belonging for faculty, staff and students,” said Lo Prete, associate head for the John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering.

Created at the department level with financial support from the college, the positions are expected to help implement action items from the college and department strategic plans and recommendations from the Assessment of the Living, Learning, and Working Environment (ALLWE) survey.

“What (EMS dean) Lee Kump has done in supporting these positions is really important because it’s opened up a space for the associate heads to really be a quarterback in a way that’s never been done before,” said Dowler, associate head for the Department of Geography. “We are way ahead of the curve doing this, and I look forward to what we can accomplish together.”

The positions, analogous to departmental associate heads for undergraduate and graduate programs, provide each department with a point person to drive specific DEI activities and to think day to day about the culture and environment. The associate heads will work with the existing DEI infrastructure in their departments and collaborate with faculty, staff, postdocs, and graduate and undergraduate students to coordinate and advance DEI efforts, Sanchez said.

“We all know diverse groups are more innovative, that diverse communities and workforces are critical to achieving academic excellence,” said Gomez, associate head for the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. “The key to this diverse community is an inclusive culture. If we don’t have that, we will struggle to fulfill our potential.”

The associate heads will tailor the positions to the specific DEI needs of their departments, taking stock of what resources and activities are already available and amplifying those efforts.

“We have faculty in our department who have put a lot of effort into this,” said Clothiaux, associate head for the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science. “Our faculty have fantastic ideas and have put a lot of energies into this, and we are going to listen to them as we move forward.”

Despite challenges of working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, the associate heads have begun organizing efforts within their departments and with Sanchez and her team.

“It’s almost like we have this opportunity to reset the department culture and college culture,” said Hajek, associate head for the Department of Geosciences. “I think we can use this summer to coordinate some things and set a nice new tone moving forward.”

Last Updated August 17, 2021